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Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size

Overview of attention for article published in Nature, January 2014
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (98th percentile)


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1165 Mendeley
1 CiteULike
Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size
Published in
Nature, January 2014
DOI 10.1038/nature12914
Pubmed ID

N. L. Stephenson, A. J. Das, R. Condit, S. E. Russo, P. J. Baker, N. G. Beckman, D. A. Coomes, E. R. Lines, W. K. Morris, N. Rüger, E. Álvarez, C. Blundo, S. Bunyavejchewin, G. Chuyong, S. J. Davies, Á. Duque, C. N. Ewango, O. Flores, J. F. Franklin, H. R. Grau, Z. Hao, M. E. Harmon, S. P. Hubbell, D. Kenfack, Y. Lin, J.-R. Makana, A. Malizia, L. R. Malizia, R. J. Pabst, N. Pongpattananurak, S.-H. Su, I-F. Sun, S. Tan, D. Thomas, P. J. van Mantgem, X. Wang, S. K. Wiser, M. A. Zavala


Forests are major components of the global carbon cycle, providing substantial feedback to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Our ability to understand and predict changes in the forest carbon cycle--particularly net primary productivity and carbon storage--increasingly relies on models that represent biological processes across several scales of biological organization, from tree leaves to forest stands. Yet, despite advances in our understanding of productivity at the scales of leaves and stands, no consensus exists about the nature of productivity at the scale of the individual tree, in part because we lack a broad empirical assessment of whether rates of absolute tree mass growth (and thus carbon accumulation) decrease, remain constant, or increase as trees increase in size and age. Here we present a global analysis of 403 tropical and temperate tree species, showing that for most species mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size. Thus, large, old trees do not act simply as senescent carbon reservoirs but actively fix large amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees; at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree. The apparent paradoxes of individual tree growth increasing with tree size despite declining leaf-level and stand-level productivity can be explained, respectively, by increases in a tree's total leaf area that outpace declines in productivity per unit of leaf area and, among other factors, age-related reductions in population density. Our results resolve conflicting assumptions about the nature of tree growth, inform efforts to undertand and model forest carbon dynamics, and have additional implications for theories of resource allocation and plant senescence.

Twitter Demographics

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Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 1,165 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 35 3%
Japan 8 <1%
United Kingdom 8 <1%
Brazil 7 <1%
Spain 7 <1%
Germany 6 <1%
France 6 <1%
Canada 5 <1%
Italy 4 <1%
Other 33 3%
Unknown 1046 90%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 275 24%
Researcher 264 23%
Student > Master 186 16%
Student > Bachelor 87 7%
Student > Doctoral Student 76 7%
Other 277 24%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 441 38%
Environmental Science 413 35%
Unspecified 121 10%
Earth and Planetary Sciences 115 10%
Engineering 12 1%
Other 63 5%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 1016. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 29 July 2019.
All research outputs
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Outputs of similar age
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Outputs of similar age from Nature
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Altmetric has tracked 13,381,338 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 69,402 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 75.7. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 293,055 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 1,148 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries.